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The Sure Fire Way to Find an Eye Clean SI2 Diamond

By Stephanie Dore

Is an SI2 clarity diamond right for you? Learn how to balance budget and beauty and get more carat for your money, with tips for diamond shopping online.

Buying an eye clean SI2 clarity diamond might be the best deal you’ll come by, getting you more carat for your cash. But is balling on a budget worth it when it comes to what your eye beholds? Finding one that’s top notch quality, with no visible inclusions, and all the sparkle can be a challenge, especially when you’re shopping online. But with a little help from your friends—okay, us—it doesn’t have to be daunting.

So, How Low Can You Go?

Think SI2 (slightly-included) is the bottom of the barrel? Think again. It’s just the lowest of the range that most reputable diamond retailers sell when it comes to solitaire diamond purchases, where all eyes will be on it. You’ll often still find I1-I2 (included) clarity diamonds decking out pre-set jewelry in diamond melee—the tiny, glittering stones that make up rows of pave or a delicate halo setting. Because even if they’re a lower clarity grade, tiny size means tiny inclusions and no one’s ever going to see those.

But when it comes to the GIA, they define SI2 diamonds as having, “Noticeable inclusions that range from easy to very easy to see, visible to a skilled grader using 10x magnification.” That’s a lot of jargon, we know. So what does it really mean to you?

Well. It Means More Money in the Bank.

Or, it can, if you’re shopping smart. In fact, an SI2 diamond can be 15% lower in price than an SI1, and that’s only a one-clarity-grade difference! This is because in general, SI1 clarity diamonds won’t have eye-visible inclusions, where SI2 tend to be more of a toss-up. But no matter what you’re looking for, it just takes a little know-how to figure out where budget meets beauty. 

Eye Can See Clearly Now

The first trick to buying an eye clean SI2 diamond is to look for one that’s eye clean. What does eye clean mean? This is the industry’s way of saying that the average Jane won’t be able to spot any inclusions with their naked eye, when viewed from 6-12 inches. This rule of thumb helps keep all of us judgy perfectionists on the same page.

Born this Way

Yes, inclusions are sometimes called “flaws.” But much like human fingerprints, freckles, or curly hair—they’re a part of a diamond’s genes and as such, are kind of inevitable. In fact, flawless diamonds are so rare that many lifelong jewelers never see them! These unique characteristics occur during diamond growth, caused by the crazy intense heat and pressure happening deep within the Earth. 

When it comes to grading a diamond’s clarity, gemologists look for blemishes (residing on the surface of a diamond) and inclusions (characteristics contained inside the diamond). And they’re giving each diamond an overall grade based on the number, size, relief, nature, and position of these characteristics, as well as how they affect the overall appearance of the diamond.

Since inclusions come in all shapes and sizes, some are going to be way more noticeable than others. For instance, a few needles or a small cloud might be difficult to see, while a bunch of dark crystals or a sizable feather might be more obvious once you get that bad boy under a microscope. 

SI2 Asscher Diamond
with White Inclusions
SI2 Emerald with
Black Inclusions

What you Need to Know About Buying an SI2 Diamond

If you’re considering an SI2 clarity diamond, there’s a higher chance for eye-visible inclusions, especially if you look through the side of a diamond, and most especially if you’re a known eagle-eye. But there are a few things you can look for to help determine if those inclusions are really going to be a distraction once your diamond is mounted into finished jewelry and glittering in the light of day.

First off, dark inclusions—like you might see in the oh-so-trendy “salt-and pepper” diamonds—which are exactly what they sound like. Dark. They typically consist of carbon that didn’t quite crystallize during the diamond’s formation. These inclusions will be more obvious than similar clear or white inclusions, especially in an SI2 clarity diamond. The only way to know what color an inclusion is, though, is to look at it, so make sure you’ve got that video proof.

Double Cut Fancy ShapeFancy Salt and Pepper Unique Inclusions SI2 diamond
Double Cut Salt and Pepper Diamond
with Black Inclusions
Rose cut salt and pepper diamond SI2 diamond
Rose Cut Salt and Pepper
Diamond with Black Inclusions

If an SI2 inclusion is grade-setting (meaning it’s the only characteristic mentioned or plotted on the certificate), and it’s hovering right there in the middle of the table (that big, flat, center facet), you might want to move along. Especially if you’re considering a step-cut diamond like emerald- or Asscher-cut, which can’t hide their inclusions under a blanket of brilliance. But if you look at the plot diagram and the inclusion is closer to the edge, or plotted only from the bottom view, there’s a better chance you won’t see it, or might be able to hide it under a bezel setting or prong.

SI2 Emerald with Visible Inclusions
Across the Table
Eye Clean SI2 Round Brilliant

Cloudy with a chance of…

That’s right, sometimes cloud-type inclusions won’t be plotted on a clarity diagram. Which might be scary to think about. This broad term, used to describe microscopic pinpoints or crystals all cuddled up next to each other, can be insignificant in higher clarity diamonds. But when it comes to SI2 clarity, a cloud—especially if noted as “cloud not shown”—could pose a transparency issue. What does clouds not shown mean?
It might be a BIG cloud, or a super dense one, that makes the diamond appear hazy to the naked eye. If you see this notation on a certificate, it’s best to make sure you get eyes on it before purchasing to see if dulls that diamond’s shine.

Nature vs. Nurture

While SI2 lab grown diamonds will have the same brilliance and fire as SI2 natural diamonds, there can be some differences in the types of clarity characteristics you’ll find in each. For instance, HPHT lab grown diamonds might have an inclusion type known as “metallic flux” which will be a bit reflective when viewed under a microscope. This is due to the materials used in their growth process. And CVD lab grown diamonds might have feathers or dark carbon crystals. Learn more about these inclusion types here. What you usually won’t find are cavities, chips, or indented naturals which are more common to antique diamonds or family heirlooms.

Are SI2 diamonds eye clean? Sometimes! Here’s How to Find One

  1. Get pics: make sure to look at the video, but also shrink the view down to actual size. You might find that those zoomed-in inclusions you thought were major are really more mellow when viewed at scale.
  2. Review the plot: Remember, inclusions smack dab under the table are going to be a no-no. But if it’s closer to the girdle edge, you’re probably safe. Do watch for large feathers (which are basically microscopic fractures in the crystal structure) that reach all the way to the girdle, however, as this can make the diamond more prone to chipping.
  3. Check the notes: Don’t see anything on the plot? Make sure you check the certificate notes for “clouds not shown” so you don’t get stuck in a haze.
  4. Shape matters: Step-cut stones are going to be more see-through (meaning their inclusions will be much more visible) than a brilliant style of faceting.

It’s Okay to Cheat a Bit

When it comes to a clarity cover-up, don’t compromise on the cut quality of your diamond. Sometimes, a lot of sparkle can help hide visible inclusions. Or at least distract the eye with blinding brilliance. If you’ve got a reputable, experienced jeweler, too, they might be able to tuck that inclusion under a prong when it’s being set into your ring. If you keep the inclusions to the edges, you might consider a bezel setting that covers the circumference of your stone, and with it, those inclusions. Or, just do your own thing and embrace the uniqueness of those inclusions—even show them off!

While eye-clean SI2 diamonds might seem daunting to find, their incredible value just might be worth the hunt. 

Not sure if an SI2 clarity diamond is right for you?

Check out our guide to clarity for a head-to-head matchup of the most frequently requested clarity grades, or get in touch with us for a video or help in selecting one. Diamonds may be the hardest thing on earth, but we can help make buying them easier.

Ready to Find Your SI2 Diamond?

Check out our diamond search where you can view 360-degree images of more than 10,000 diamonds and don’t forget to zoom out (because size can be deceiving), or book a virtual or offline appointment at our New York salon to view certified lab-grown and natural diamonds in person. 

Not finding what you’re looking for? Email us with what you’re looking for at hello@frankdarling.com. We’ll curate a list of 5-7 exclusive stones that are just right for you.